Moana, PG, 103 mins, Disney Animation Studios.
A refreshing, stunningly realised and history-making parable - its heroine is the first in the studio’s history to originate from the Pacific Islands - of Polynesian descent.
It’s comforting to know that in the current cultural landscape of unprecedented political change and diversity rows, Disney, as with Pocahontas and Lilo And Stitch before it, has made an embracing tale that displays its message with warming subtlety.
It’s also not a traditional love-centric princess fairytale, instead decidedly a narrative of self-worth and ecological preservation. It’s directors, Ron Clements and John Musker, have helmed films with the calibre of The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules and Treasure Planet - so they’re unparalleled masters of stirring, majestic resonance and visual sweep.
With stunningly beautiful animation, there’s everything from parting turquoise waves, sunrises and tiny nuances in the character’s faces; in moments you look at them and believe they’re real people - even more immersive in 3D.
The visuals are further complemented by a magnificently joyous soundtrack penned by Lin Manuel-Miranda, the visionary behind Broadway’s hottest ticket: Hamilton. Believe me, the main ballad, How Far I’ll Go, is Moana’s Let It Go, and will drive parents mad on repeat forever, just like its icy predecessor, though for my money, it has the emotional edge over the gargantuan success of Frozen.
But not half as gargantuan as Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s ultra-charismatic, film-stealing role as Maui, a muscle-bound, wisecracking demi-god - perfect casting! His number, ‘You’re Welcome’, cleverly plays on Johnson’s own perceived reputation as having an over-inflated ego and vanity - which couldn’t be further from the truth.
Another favourite character of mine is Grandma Tala, perhaps the best-rendered grandparent ever in animation: Irascibly funny, Rachel House, who at just 45, brings an incredibly aged, very moving quality to her outstanding performance.
2016’s best animation, Oscar-worthy and destined to be an instant classic!